My neighbors, like me, are early risers. Lights come on in the wee hours and stay on; out of the couple that lives there, I usually see the man first. Occasionally, I’ll raise a hand in greeting if I see him puttering about in their kitchen, where the window offers a view into my own.
It’s a moment of intimacy, a glimpse into the time before the world starts its demands, when there’s no bravado or jokes, no posturing or defense mechanisms. Just a person, brewing coffee and waking up, alongside another, mere meters away, doing the same.
We are good neighbors, kind and respectful. Sometimes we talk on the sidewalk and we’ve been into one another’s homes, though we also stopped – at some point in the pandemic – talking about having wine together on a regular basis. We exchange cookies at Christmastime and they’ve brought over meals for me, particularly when the baby was small. During my pregnancy, they checked on me, helped me when they could. I appreciate them very much.
Still, I didn’t choose them, and they did not choose me. They are not my family; we are connected by happenstance. When I move away, or when they move away, we won’t stay in touch, though when we run into each other in town, we’ll be glad, our spirits momentarily lifted by the recognition. I know you, we might think to ourselves. You know me.
That’s a nice thing, to be seen, to be witnessed. Sometimes I think that’s all we really want, this thread through our lives that means we’re linked to other people, some casually, some with more dedication. Often times, I think that’s what we really need.
This morning, their light was on before mine was; I could tell he’d come and gone already. Where he goes after that first foray into the kitchen, I do not and will never know. Maybe he returns to bed, maybe he heads to the living room, maybe he meditates out back or sits down at a desk to tend to some sort of hobby, to nourish some secret dream.
I wonder if he noticed the early fog, as I did; I wonder if he is thinking about the world. The day deepens into itself. The sky grows lighter, for everyone.